Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA Answerers Its Own Press Questions

What do you do if you call a press conference and there are no reporters on hand (at least none that can ask questions)?

If you're FEMA, you have your employees pretend to be reporters and you tell them what you want them to ask you. Like so:

[FEMA] had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for southern California to oversee and assist in firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a telephone number to listen in on but could not ask questions.

But with no reporters on hand and an agency video camera providing a feed carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed the questions for Johnson that included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

According to Friday's Post account, which Walker confirmed, Johnson replied that he was "very happy with FEMA's response so far."

He also said the agency had the benefit of "good leadership" and other factors, "none of which were present at Katrina."

FEMA: Over two years since Katrina and still doing a heck of a job!

And just so we're clear, booking a press conference in a very small room and being unable to accommodate all the reporters who'd like to attend is an error in judgment. Announcing a press conference for a certain time and showing up 1 hr late is an error in judgment. Even having an agency representative who's not well briefed answer reporters' questions might be passed off as an error in judgment.

Having your employees pose as reporters is a severe breach of public trust, a sign of incompetence, and a pretty good indicator of a dysfunctional agency.

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